One of the top tier hockey teams in the city of Calgary plays out of WinSport, and you should go watch them.
The first athlete I remember admiring was Catriona LeMay Doan. She won back-to-back Olympic golds in the 500 m speed skating event, and I wanted to be her.
It took me longer to get into professional sports, but as far back as I can remember, I was always into the Olympics. It was easy to get into the games and cheer for the Canadian athletes; it was even easier when you could see yourself competing in them.
Not necessarily due to athletic talent – and what I wouldn’t give to go back to 10-year-old me and tell her that 10 years old is not too late to get into a new sport – but because people who shared your gender were there, and they were competing, and they were good.
The Calgary Inferno had their season opener this past weekend, and they were competing, and they were good. They hosted the Boston Blades for two quick back-to-back games. The first ended around 8:30 p.m. Saturday night, the second started around 8 a.m. Sunday morning. It was an insane turnaround necessitated by the fact that CWHL players can’t just play hockey and that’s it.
But the turnout was there. The stands of the Joan Snyder arena were as full as they could be for the Saturday night game. A group of young girls played on the ice during one of the intermissions; they could be seen peering over the glass, watching, when the actual game was on. Post-game, it was almost impossible to get out; the rinkside was crowded with Inferno players and fans alike, waiting to meet the players and get something signed.
The stands were a little less full for the Sunday morning game because, duh, early Sunday morning, but still, there were people watching. And they were treated to a show.
It’s not just that giving these girls athletes to look up to is important – and it is incredibly important. Representation matters. It’s a lot easier to believe you, yourself, can do something if you see someone who looks like you doing it. A professional women’s hockey league does that for a group of aspiring hockey players otherwise overlooked – it’s that the Calgary Inferno are a legitimately incredible team.
After taking a quick four goal lead in the first period, the Inferno defeated the Blades 7-1 to a full crowd Saturday night. They outshot them 56-17. Brianne Jenner, one of Team Canada’s gold medalists from the Sochi Olympics, introduced herself as the Inferno’s new captain; Hayley Wickenheiser, who any decent hockey fan has heard of, made her debut as well.
It felt as though they never left the offensive zone. (Here are pictures from the game.)
They followed up this performance not even 12 hours later, when they again dispatched of the Blades 4-1, again outshooting them by a wide margin (although they didn’t quite hit 50 shots again, they came close). The second game was less out of control, particularly when, after taking a 4-0 lead, the Blades’ captain Tara Watchorn (another Olympic gold medalist) broke the shutout bid.
Once she scored, the action shifted from Inferno dominance to up-and-down the ice in a display of evenly played, fast, and extremely talented hockey. And this is all off of very, very little sleep – and in the case of Louise Warren, who had a goal and two assists in the second game, none at all. (More pictures!)
And it should only get even better. The Inferno are in Boston this weekend for a rematch; the week after, they return home to host Les Canadiennes for two weekend games: and that’s a roster that boasts names like Julie Chu, Caroline Ouellette, and Marie-Philip Poulin.
In other words, it’s sure to be incredible hockey.
So, you know… go watch them. Because it’s important. And because they’re so, so good.